By Kara Herlihy
Three hundred ninety-three voters of 1,454 registered voters in the town of Warren cast ballots on Town Meeting day; residents approved a $2,142,658 budget, up 7.05 percent from last year.
Select board chair Andy Cunningham was re-elected to a three-year term, and Anson Montgomery was elected over Charles Snow, 225 votes to 145. Sandra Brodeur was elected lister over incumbent Priscilla Robinson, 215 to 174. Interim select board member Ken Frey was also elected to a two-year term.
TOUGH ECONOMIC TIMES
Voters also approved Article 5, the allocation of $20,000 to the Conservation Commission's reserve fund, by paper ballot, following a lively discussion among conservation commission representatives and residents concerned about the town purchasing land for conservation.
Warren resident Tim Seniff called the purchase and conservation of the Kingsbury Farm "bogus" and spoke out against the conservation article citing "tough [economic] times."
The article passed 78 to 50 following Conservation Commission representatives Caitrin Noel and George Schenk's presentation that emphasized what he said was the town's "ethical obligation" to conserve land and promote smart growth in Warren.
Article 7, that called for the elimination of the Department of Public Works position, was defeated by voice vote; Lenord Robinson said he was responsible for the article and explained that it was the result of "a lot of mistakes made" in the past year specific to mud season road maintenance and the spreading of top soil on the Blueberry Lake dam.
Town officials spoke in support of the position, currently held by Barry Simpson; select board member Matt Groom told voters, "If his job is cut, someone else is going to have to be paid to do the work."
Select board member Andy Cunningham said that the position that was established in the summer of 2008 "is needed; that's why it was created," and that Simpson was selected from a host of other applicants based on his experience and knowledge of the town's history.
Article 14, which asked the voters to keep the surface of the East Warren Community Market gravel instead of paving, was passed over, by paper ballot, 53 to 14. The town received a state grant to pave the lot in order to accommodate an official park and ride. The grant also requires additional lighting.
Prior to the motion to pass over (which means the article will not be voted on), the select board told voters that it was unclear whether the grant will require paving and residents questioned whether the project would cost taxpayers additional funds.
One resident commented that paving the lot would "change the character of the neighborhood" and said that the town's only official park and ride is rarely used and the proposed location would also likely go unused.
REDUCE THE BUDGET
At the school meeting, voters approved a budget of $2,102,142 following a defeated motion to reduce the budget by $42,000.
Residents discussed the inclusion of an additional classroom teacher and whether an increase in class size was detrimental to learning. With the extra teacher, classroom size would average 16; without, the classes would average 20 students.
School board members said that the school has brought in tuition revenue as a result of the closures of schools in Granville and Hancock. Residents also voted in favor of starting the school meeting at 8 a.m. next year, rather than 9 a.m.